Materia Medica: Chang Tser – Thistle


changtser – spyang tsher (tib.)


Thistle (engl.) – Carduus sp, Cirsium sp, Morina sp, Cryptothladia sp

by Eric Rosenbush

TRADITIONAL CATEGORY: sngo sman – wild herbs


There are two principal types of spyang tsher, white and black.  The white variety is not a thistle, and has been identified as Morina and Cryptothaladia in various texts. Black spyang tsher can include a variety of thistle genera, notably Cirsium and Carduus.  A further division is also made between stronger, ‘wild’ (rgod pa) and more gentle, ‘tame’ (g.yung) types.

Thistles are a large group of thorny plants, classified as the Cynareae tribe within the aster family (Asteraceae).  They are common plants in many areas of the world, both in wild and domestic areas.


Taste: Sweet and astringent taste, sweet post-digestive.
Potency: Classical accounts range between warm and balanced, likely due to regional and species variation.

སྤྱང་ཚེར་བད་ཀན་འདྲེན། ། “Chang tsher guides out beken” (Explanatory Tantra Ch. 20)

Chang tsher is included in the group of herbs to induce vomiting (Explanatory Tantra Ch. 21), and is also mentioned multiple times in the Oral Instruction and Final Tantras.


Beneficial for beken disorders.
Induces vomiting to ascend and release indigestion (ma zhu pa), etc.
Beneficial for treating disorders such as cancer (‘bras), tumors (skran), and swellings (skrangs pa).
To clear heat disorders (tsha ba), make a decoction of the roots by boiling three parts of water down to one.


English Works:

  • Chenagtsang, Machig, & Rosenbush. Sorig Materia Medica.  NGO MEN – Common wild herbs of the Tibetan plateau. IATTM, 2015.

Tibetan Works:

  • De’u dmar bstan ‘dzin phun tshogs, Shel gong shel phreng.  Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, Beijing 1986 (TBRC W7516)
  • Karma chos ‘phel, Bdud rtsi sman gyi ‘khrungs dpa legs bshad nor bu’i phreng mdzes.  Bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang, 1993
  • Dga’ ba rdo rje; ‘Khrungs dpe dri med shel gyi me long.   Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1995. (TBRC W20069)
  • Khro ru tshe rnam.  Gso rig rgyud bzhi’i ‘grel chen drang srong zhal lung. So khrin mi rigs dpe skrun khang, Chengdu 2003
  • Karma tshogs gnyis, Sbyor ba sman, Arura Series, Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2006
  • Sman rams pa tshe ring nor bu, Bod lugs gso ba rig pa’i skye dngos sman rdzas sngo ‘bum kun btus, Vol 1,  Men-Tsee-Khang, Dharamsala, 2013.

Images by Fir0002, Dysmachus & Eric Rosenbush